There are a number of similarities I’ve noticed among really good or really successful athletes. Traits that most of us can learn from and copy to our own advantage. Unlike the monster engine the very top age groupers or pro’s have which most of us could never match, we can copy a lot of the things that add to their repertoire. Things that give an extra 1% here or 2% there but when added up they can make a massive difference to an age group athlete.

  1. Getting the session done despite difficulties: I recently had an athlete tell me he had to finish his long ride indoors on the trainer because he felt the weather was getting too dangerous to continue outdoors. The wind was picking up and he was worried about being blown off the bike. He had a specific session to do and knew he wouldn’t get to it again that week so he came in and got stuck into 4 hours on the turbo. Getting the work done is the most important part, not letting circumstances stop you getting a session done is the second part of the lesson.
  2. Not chasing sessions: The flip side of lesson one is knowing when a session is “gone” and not keep on chasing it. not cramming missed sessions into the following days training.
  3. Leaving the training behind once it’s done: This one I really struggle with, just do it, forget about it and go enjoy the rest of your day. Don’t go analysing it to death, the head can become tired of training and constantly being switched on so it needs recovery and down time too.
  4. Being present during the session: Not needing distraction, ie TV while on the turbo. I practice race day in my head while doing long intervals. In this way in my head I have raced hundreds of Ironman instead of 11, I have dealt with punctures, mechanicals, cramps, problems of all description and recovered from them in my mind and continued racing. The benefit is that when any of the scenario’s actually happen in a race I don’t panic I just deal with it like I have visualised dozens of times and race on. I don’t panic if I puncture or start to bonk, I calmly deal with it and continue. I also find that the visualisation becomes the entertainment and I enjoy being inside my head for long periods of time like I have to be during a race.
  5. Planning ahead: We had an athlete show up for a swim/run session on a Thursday morning recently. He not only had his training kit but also his work kit. Nothing unusual there you might think, but the previous night (Wednesday) he had gotten all of his weekends training kit ready (he was going on a 3 day training camp) as he knew that between work, training and life he wouldn’t get a chance to pack without having a very late night which would screw up his recovery. Thinking and planning ahead is absolutely critical when training takes up as much time as a second job, often the difference between getting the session done or not is down to good planning and  preparation.
  6. Sticking with the plan even when it goes against conventional  wisdom: Trusting the plan and the coach is crucial otherwise you are better off working alone. Blindly following a set plan isn’t what I mean either, we believe that the biggest part of our job is to teach our athletes how to train and race. We’re not here to get them fitter, that happens anyway, we are here to make them better athletes. We do a lot of things differently to what the accepted way is. Cycling cadence is a good example of this. We are very big proponents of “big-gear” “over-gear” or “low cadence” training on the bike. I’ve made massive gains with it and so far without fail we see results with every athlete who adopts it. A lot of athletes who work with us question this as they have been told that high cadence is faster and less taxing. We will explain the thinking behind it and they do the work as prescribed. They trust the plan.
  7. Not making excuses: Just give me the facts. I couldn’t get it done is enough information, unless the reason why is pertinent to the training. I don’t want to know that the dog ate your homework or that your gooseberry bush went on fire or that your grandmother lost her reading glasses. The best athletes don’t make excuses, they take responsibility for what the get done or not. They do what is in their power to do then move on to the next session (see no’s 1,2 and 3)

As a coach I’ve found myself learning from our athletes numerous times over the last few years and when I see these traits in people we coach I know they will get a lot out of themselves. Doing everything in your power correctly more often that not makes up for a lack of God given “talent”


I have written a report on what six of the most successful Irish Ironman athletes do that differentiates them from most other athletes. With 29 Kona slots and over 80 Ironman finishes, Irish records and national titles you will love what they have to say. You can download it free here or at the box on the right hand side of the blog.

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